The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in its report “Women Peace and Security” provides advice on issues of gender, human rights and HIV/AIDS as part of a collaborative, inter-agency programme in the context of a peacekeeping operation to women in Sierra Leone.
Despite the challenges faced with rotations and cultural diversity, the focus on continuous interventions among peacekeepers has made a large difference both within the UN mission as well as among the host community.
The UNIFEM Gender and HIV Adviser has consolidated knowledge and information from many UN and international partners in order to provide guidance and training for the peacekeepers on gender and HIV/AIDS.
The report further reveals that the focus of the programme, which began in 2001, has been two-fold, firstly to raise awareness for peacekeepers on codes of conduct and on issues around gender and human rights in the host community, as well as the importance of adopting safe behavior.
In partnership with the International Centre for Migration and Health and with support from UNFPA, UNIFEM conducted a study to examine the knowledge, attitudes, behaviour and practices that increase or decrease women’s vulnerabilities to HIV/AIDS in three districts in Sierra Leone, and also examined the gender and human rights attitudes that account for the higher HIV prevalence rates among women in the country.
This programme according to the report has filled a major gap in the response of peacekeepers to HIV/AIDS and provides a model that can be replicated in other peacekeeping missions.
About gender justice, the report reveals that crimes against women reach new levels of brutality and frequency in times of armed conflict.
Adding that during a country’s transition to peace, unique opportunities emerge to promote gender equality and gender justice, particularly in the context of peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction processes and structures.
Given the importance of strengthening the legal foundations of a post-conflict society as a cornerstone of peace-building and restoring public trust, the organization programmes seek, through building strategic partnerships and technical support, to enhance the focus on achieving gender equality in constitutional, legislative, and judicial reform.